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How Biden Campaign Is Readying For Election Results

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There is a lot of nervous anticipation tonight as these last final hours of voting tick down. President Trump talked about his prospects. He told reporters today, quote, "winning is easy. Losing is never easy." Meanwhile, Joe Biden has expressed optimism about his chances both in the election and the prospects for a peaceful transition after. To talk more about what's ahead, we turn to NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hey there again.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey, let me ask you, actually, to work your way up to looking ahead. How are you thinking, big-picture, about this election and the full four years that have brought us - with a lot of twists and turns - but brought us to this moment tonight?

LIASSON: Well, the big question is whether the reaction from Democrats after the Trump election is going to continue all the way through today. From the Biden campaign's point of view - you know, we talked to a Trump campaign spokesperson earlier in the show - they have to hope that the Women's March, the huge wins the Democrats got in 2018, the historic turnout in that election, the historic turnout among young people and Hispanic voters, the historic gender gap - then fast-forward to this year with Biden's consistent lead in the polls and Democrats' good performance in early vote numbers - they have to feel and hope that that's going to continue all the way through today.

Now, Democrats have a lot of PTSD from 2016. They can't let themselves feel too confident. There are a lot of jokes about bedwetting Democrats. My favorite is Emanuel Cleaver, a member of Congress from Missouri - said, whenever I get too happy, I slap myself in the face and hold my hand over a fire. But the question of tonight for Democrats is, will all the indicators of Democratic enthusiasm turn into more turnout today, or did they just bank their vote ahead of time?

KELLY: OK. Let me pause you there, Mara. But I want you to stay with us 'cause I want you to listen in to this next conversation and then react to it. This is a conversation from earlier today. I checked in with the Biden camp, where Kate Bedingfield is deputy campaign manager.

Kate Bedingfield, welcome.

KATE BEDINGFIELD: Thank you for having me.

KELLY: How are you holding up? How many cups of coffee kind of day has it been so far?

BEDINGFIELD: I have long since lost track of the caffeine intake, but it's good.

KELLY: The endless flow.

BEDINGFIELD: There's - you know, today - you get adrenaline, too.

KELLY: Yeah.

BEDINGFIELD: So you get the caffeine and the adrenaline.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, let me ask about this closing day, the closing hours of this campaign for you. The vice president was in Scranton, Pa., this morning, his birthplace. And then he went on to Philly. And I will note this is the third straight day that he has campaigned in Pennsylvania. The last three days of the campaign, you have been there, which suggests the state is make-or-break for you. Is that how you see it? Do you have to win Pennsylvania?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, you know, I wouldn't actually say it's make-or-break. No. We're fortunate to be in a position where we don't have to win Pennsylvania. We don't have to win Florida. We have a lot of different ways to get to 270 electoral votes. But that being said, you know, his whole race has really been fueled by his Scranton values and by the people that he grew up with and his childhood in Scranton. So it was very meaningful for him to spend part of Election Day in Scranton.

KELLY: And how are you thinking about turnout today, both in Pennsylvania and beyond, given, as you know...

BEDINGFIELD: Yeah.

KELLY: ...That Democrats have been more inclined to vote early, to vote by mail?

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. So we believe that we have built up a pretty significant bank of early votes. We've seen exceptional turnout. We've seen record-level turnout. Almost a hundred million people have voted early. But as you say, obviously, we are also focused on turning people out today. This race has been very - has been unique in that we've spent a lot of time actually talking to voters about how they can vote. And that certainly includes early vote, but it also included talking to people about where they can vote on Election Day. So we're continuing to work to turn people out today. And our - you know, our GOTV operation obviously run through when the polls close tonight.

KELLY: You sound confident, which is your job, of course, as a deputy campaign manager. I will note that the Biden campaign has had a smaller footprint in the sense of smaller public events than the president has run. He has not given many interviews. I know 'cause he hasn't given us one, which is something I hope you all will revisit in the days to come, whatever the outcome of the election. But it does prompt the question - understanding all the public health concerns of campaigning during a pandemic - has he done enough?

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. Yes. First of all, we did give you guys an interview during the primary. But look.

KELLY: Not since he secured the nomination. Go on.

BEDINGFIELD: But look. Yes. He has campaigned incredibly hard, and he has campaigned safely and creatively. I think, you know, we made a decision when the pandemic really shut the country down back in March - we made a decision that we were not going to do anything that put the communities that we would be visiting in jeopardy. You know, Joe Biden wanted to listen to the doctors and scientists that we brought in immediately to advise our campaign and tell us how to do this safely. He wanted to model responsible leadership. And I think that that's what people are looking for. I mean, you know, all across the country, Americans...

KELLY: Although as you know, plenty of Democrats have raised the question that I just put to you, which is, should he have been out there more? Should he have, you know, one more trip? If it comes down to the wire, are you going to have regrets?

BEDINGFIELD: What we've seen is that Donald Trump has been reckless in the way he's campaigning. Joe Biden has been responsible. I think, look; you know, Americans all across the country are grappling with this in their own lives, figuring out how to adjust their lives to make sure that they're not putting themselves, their families, their friends at risk. I think they are looking for a leader, a president, who takes this virus seriously. And Joe Biden demonstrated that from the outset. And that doesn't mean that we weren't campaigning aggressively. We were doing virtual events. We were doing local media all across the country. We were finding creative ways to reach people safely.

KELLY: What is the plan if things are too close to call tonight?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I would expect that you're going to hear from Joe Biden tonight, regardless of where we are. I think he will take the opportunity tonight to address the country, you know, call on the process to play out and for all votes to be counted. I think based on what we're seeing, we should have a general sense of which direction this race is going. It doesn't mean there will necessarily be an external call tonight.

KELLY: What do you mean by that - a general sense?

BEDINGFIELD: I think we'll have enough data in from the core states to have a sense of which direction this race is going. But if we don't, if it is close and we don't, voters should still expect to hear from Biden tonight. I think throughout this campaign, he's really - you know, he has led with a presidential tone. And I think you should expect to see that tonight as well, regardless of what the situation may be.

KELLY: Kate Bedingfield - she is deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign. And I will note that elsewhere on the show tonight, we are also going to hear from the Trump campaign.

Kate Bedingfield, thanks so much.

BEDINGFIELD: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

KELLY: And Mara Liasson is still here listening along with us. Mara, quick reaction - what did you make of Kate Bedingfield's parting comment there that we will have a general sense of which direction this race is going by tonight?

LIASSON: Well, I think that they feel pretty confident that if Donald Trump loses one of those big early-reporting states that he won last time - North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Arizona - then it's going to be really hard for him to make up ground. I thought it was pretty interesting she said they didn't need to win Pennsylvania, yet the vice president has been there a lot. What I'm hearing is that he wants to make sure that if he wins Pennsylvania, he wins it by a big-enough margin so Donald Trump can't contest it.

KELLY: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Thank you, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome.

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